Summary: We can learn much by meditating on the trajectory from Adam, through Job, to Christ and ourselves.
Good Friday 2014
Blessed Be the Name of the Lord!
It all started in a garden. The Lord God, out of love, made a man and a woman, and gave them what today we’d call their operating system: love each other, make lots of babies, and tend the garden. Eat what you’d like, but not from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. He wanted them to know only the good, and to live and grow old together in goodness, and ultimately to attain to union with Himself. In other words, He made them in His own image and likeness so that they could become more than humans, could become divine as adopted children.
He took a risk doing that, the risk that they would think they had a better way. Goaded on by evil, they knew evil, and they lost their original innocence. They sinned, and brought on themselves the result of knowing evil. They would grow old in suffering and ultimately die.
But God gave them a promise at that moment–the promise of eternal hostility between themselves and evil, and the promise of a second Adam, and a second Eve, who together would, in goodness, follow God’s will and triumph. But just as Adam and Eve would live a life of pain and hard work, that triumph of the New Adam and Eve would only come through struggle, suffering, and death. He would crush the serpent’s head, but the serpent would wound Him unto death.
Fast forward from Genesis to the Book of Job. Here was Job, an entirely just man about whom even God bragged. Satan said, “Hey, of course old Job loves you. You’ve given him everything he wants–healthy kids, enormous wealth, good health. But take all that away and watch him turn from you.” So God gives Satan leave to act as his name pronounces. He becomes Job’s adversary, and takes away all his goods–children, property, even health. Job’s response was to praise God: “the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Now Job’s friends, who came to him to console him, did no such thing. They told him that all his pain came because he had sinned. Job’s wife did him no good, either. She urged him to admit that God hated him, curse God, and then get relief through death. But Job resisted all temptation. He insisted on his innocence, and refused to blame God for his suffering. In time, God restored everything to Job, although the Bible doesn’t say what happened to his friends, or his wife.
Now let’s get real. Job is a wonderful fiction, a story written to make a point about the operation of evil. All of us, at some point in our earthly travail, want to shake our fists at God and ask “Why me, Lord?” We get sick, or a spouse or child gets sick, and maybe even dies. Our investment portfolio collapses. We lose a job. Someone we respect disses us. We get one of those hand-delivered letters from an attorney. And we wonder what we did to deserve that.
What we did to deserve that was to be born in weakness and to make poor choices, choices that hurt ourselves and others. There may not be a direct connection between our evil deeds and the result, but our weak human condition–call it the effects of original sin–put us in the shape we are in. It causes us to do wrong, by our own free will, and others to do the same. That, ultimately, is why society is in such a mess. We are individually and collectively suffering the effects of original sin.
So why Job? Job–really each one of us–asks God, “Why?” and God answers, “Why not?” Job says to God, “I don’t understand.” God answers: “you’re right, boy. You don’t understand.” In time, Job did understand. Because of our weakened state, the only way we can grow is through suffering. And the only way to make sense out of that suffering is, at the end, to do what Job did. He gave thanks and praise to God in his suffering. Exactly what we are reluctant to do is the only growth-oriented response.
That brings us to the only truly just and righteous man, Jesus Christ, and to Good Friday. God’s plan for bringing us all back in union with Himself involved giving His only-begotten Son, Jesus, for our salvation. But, as the author of Hebrews writes, He could only come to perfection, to completion, in His task, He could only become the perfect Man, the New Adam, through suffering. He took all of our sin upon Himself. No mere human could bear that weight, but the God-man could, and did. With Jesus, our sin and our eternal death was nailed to the cross. With Jesus, that sin and death died, and the power of the Adversary was crushed into dust. We who are baptized into Christ receive the effects of that death, and His Resurrection to never-ending life. We become adopted children of God, and heirs to all that is God’s.